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Annapurna summiteers back in BC!
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May 13, 2005 10: 09 EST
Mario Merelli has just called his home team from BC. The climbers are safely back after spending last night in C2 on their way down from Annapurna’s summit.

Merelli, Panzieri and Bernasconi reached the summit of Annapurna I around 2:30 pm, local time, along with American Ed Viesturs and Finn Veikka Gustafsson.

Mario Merelli, Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, Ed Viesturs, and Veikka Gustafsson reached the summit of Annapurna on May 12th, 2005.

Ed Viesturs has therefore become the first American to summit all the 14 8000ers.

Silvio Mondinelli did not make it to the summit due to cold. Christian Gobby had returned to BC one day before.

The Italians have been fighting the mountain for two months; they had previously fixed the route up to Camp 3, where they had been for three days, unable to leave their tiny tents due to high winds. Viesturs and Veikka reached the mountain a week ago after climbing Cho Oyu, and joined the Italians for their summit bid.

Year after year, climbers return to Annapurna despite its reputation as a difficult, dangerous mountain (a reputation earned in large part due to the high risk of avalanche.) Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit fatality rate is 40% (although not all climbers summit, of course).

Annapurna was the very first 8,000m peak ever summited. In 1950, French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal used only a rough map as a guide, and picked their way up an untried route to the summit. Their descent turned into a hellish nightmare, leaving them near death, with their extremities completely deadened by frostbite. Herzog and Lachenal survived their ordeal, but too many others have lost their lives over the years.

On Christmas Day 1997, Anatoli Boukreev was killed in an avalanche, an event that shocked the mountaineering community. In total, only 135 climbers have summited Annapurna - last year Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Denis Urubko summited the mountain from the North side.

Image of Mario, courtesy of Mariomerelli.it
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